The Gilder Lehrman Institute is pleased to announce the launch of the 2022 David McCullough Essay Prizes. Named for David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning historian and member of the Gilder Lehrman Institute Board of Trustees, and honoring his career telling America’s stories and examining its histories, this contest recognizes outstanding high school student research essays with cash prizes of up to $10,000.
Students currently in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade in our National Academy of American History and Civics are eligible and encouraged to participate. They are invited to submit an original essay, written independently or for a 2021–2022 class, that has been revised, expanded, and adapted to conform with the McCullough Prize specifications.
All participants will receive a certificate of participation suitable for framing. Prize winners will receive cash awards, as follows:
- 1st Prize: $10,000 (plus a $500 prize awarded to the school)
- 2nd Prize: $5,000 (plus a $500 prize awarded to the school)
- Nine 3rd Prizes: $1,000 each
To be considered for the David McCullough Essay Prizes, students or their teachers or parents can submit their entry by 8:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 6, 2022. The entries will be reviewed by a panel of Gilder Lehrman master teachers who will choose the pool of finalists, from which the winners will be chosen by a jury of eminent historians. Essays will be evaluated for their historical rigor, the clarity and correctness of their style, their use of evidence, and their qualities of empathy and imagination. Winners will be announced and notified no later than July 2022.
Submissions for this year’s contest are now closed.
ESSAY REQUIREMENTS AND GUIDELINES
- Word Count: Essay should be approximately 1,500–2,500 words. (Note that this word count does not include footnotes, endnotes, or citations.) Essays will be judged on quality of argument and depth of research, so a longer essay is not necessarily a better one!
- Font and Page Style: Papers should be written and submitted in Times New Roman, 12 point font with margins of one inch at the top, bottom, and sides. Essays should be free of teacher commentary or other marginalia—such changes should be integrated into the text.
- Primary Sources: Essays must focus on a primary source document in American history from the years 1600–2000 with a copy of that document attached as an appendix. Top essays will focus on this and other primary source documents (letters, photographs, broadsides, etc.) as the basis for affirming their theses.
- Secondary Sources: Top essays will use scholarly secondary sources beyond the textbook. Textbooks can be referenced only for general background information.
- Organization: Top essays have an introduction, body, and conclusion, and a clearly stated, well-developed thesis statement with supportive historical evidence.
- Essay Topics: Essays can be on any topic related to American history from the 1600s to 2000.
- Citations: The best essays have clear, complete, and consistent citations. Students must document their sources and evidence, using any one of the following three formats: MLA, APA, or Chicago Manual of Style (of the three, Chicago is preferred but not required). Regarding internet sources, please make sure that there is information beyond URLs in their citations, such as the author and title of the source.
- Bibliography: Each essay is required to include a bibliography listing all sources, dividing the bibliography between primary and secondary sources.
2022 Contest Winners
More than seventy 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students in our National Academy of American History and Civics submitted essays. These entries were reviewed by a panel of our master teachers, with twenty finalists then reviewed by a jury of historians.
The eleven prize winners, including links to their entries, are as follows:
First Prize and $10,000: Kelsey Carlos-Keli’ikipi, Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus (Honolulu, HI) for “Senator Daniel K. Inouye: How Senator Inouye’s Advocacy Helped Native Hawaiians Reclaim Kahoʻolawe”
Second Prize and $5,000: Liliana Feyk, Sage Creek High School (Carlsbad, CA) for “The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion: African American Women in World War II”
Third Prize and $1,000 (nine winners, listed alphabetically)
- Brian Chan, Hunter College High School (New York, NY) for “American Attitudes toward the Annexation of Hawaii: Military, Morality, and Misrepresentation”
- Jackson Fels, Brunswick School (Riverside, CT) for “To Peking for Peace: How Daring Diplomacy Transformed Sino-American Relations”
- Isaiah Glick, Berkeley Carroll School (Brooklyn, NY) for “‘To Shape the National Debate’: The Coalition against Détente Diplomacy, 1973–1981”
- Liliana Hug, Salamander Meadows Homeschool (Mill Run, PA) for “Diplomacy for the People: How Frances Perkins Shaped Landmark Social Legislation of the New Deal”
- Maya Narang, The Brearley School (New York, NY) for “How American Was ‘America First’?”
- Kevin Park, Ridgewood High School (Ridgewood, NJ) for “The Defense of Iceland Agreement: How a Small, Pacifist Nation Defeated the US”
- Victor Robila, Hunter College High School (New York, NY) for “Passenger Pigeons: Technology, a False Sense of Security, and Their Disappearance”
- Aaron Siegle, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney, MD) for “Thunder in the Tundra: The Enduring Legacy of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act”
- Myranda Webster, Nashua-Plainfield High School (Nashua, IA) for “Deutsch Verboten: Iowa’s Babel Proclamation Leads to Discrimination”
2020 Contest Winners
More than 200 rising 11th and 12th grade students in our National Academy of American History and Civics submitted essays. These entries were reviewed by a panel of our master teachers, with twenty-two finalists then reviewed by a jury of historians.
The twelve prize winners, including links to their entries, are as follows:
First Prize and $10,000: Valerie Gottridge, Birch Wathen Lenox School, New York, NY, for “‘No Jews Are to be Permitted’: Understanding the Context of General Orders No. 11”
Second Prize and $5,000: August Neumann, Marquette University High School, Milwaukee, WI, for “U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark: Barred from His Homeland, One Chinese American’s Fight for Birthright Citizenship”
Third Prize and $1,000 (ten winners, listed alphabetically):
- Olivia Curtis, Wachusett Regional High School, Holden, MA, for “Transcendentalism: A Critique of Today’s World through the Eyes of a Nineteenth-Century Transcendentalist”
- Daphne Glatter, Verona High School, Verona, NJ, for “The 1619 Project and the Federalist Papers”
- Anita Kukeli, The Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, NY, for “Coverture: The Unexpected Feminist Icon”
- Max Leshne, High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Bronx, NY, for “Policy Set Loose in the World: From George Kennan’s Long Telegram to the Vietnam War”
- Victoria Li, Hunter College High School, New York, NY, for “African American Cowboys: A Forgotten Legacy”
- Luisa Metz, Glenbard West High School, Glen Ellyn, IL, for “Stamping Out Hunger: The Evolution of the American Food Stamp Program”
- Ava Ondik, Council Rock High School North, Newtown, PA, for “Healing, Organization, and the Civil War’s Forgotten Hero”
- Henry Pike, Cameron High School, Cameron, WI, for “The Confederate and U.S. Constitutions”
- Ela Sabnis, Nicolet High School, Glendale, WI, for “The Hollywood Ten”
- Katherine Shue, The Paideia School, Atlanta, GA, for “The American Automobile Shapes Its Country”
2021 Contest Winners
More than seventy rising 11th and 12th grade students in our National Academy of American History and Civics submitted essays. These entries were reviewed by a panel of our master teachers, with twenty-three finalists then reviewed by a jury of historians.
The twelve prize winners, including links to their entries, are as follows:
First Prize and $10,000: Liliana Hug, Salamander Meadows Homeschool (Ohiopyle, PA), for the essay “The Silent Spring That Sparked a Thunderous Uproar: How Rachel Carson’s Scientific Communication Ignited the American Environmental Movement”
Second Prize and $5,000: Daksha Pillai, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY), for the essay “United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind: Dual Legacies of a Forgotten Supreme Court Case”
Third Prize, with special jury distinction, and $1,000: Riya Ranjan, Monta Vista High School (Cupertino, CA), for the essay “‘The Woman Identified Woman’: Intersectional Liberation”
Third Prize and $1,000 (nine additional winners, listed alphabetically)
- Alexis Cornett, Milford High School (Highland, MI), for “The ‘Proper Timidity and Delicacy’ of Women: How Bradwell v. Illinois Reflected the Ingrained Sexism of 19th-Century America”
- Sophie Gala, J. R. Masterman Senior High School (Philadelphia, PA), for “‘An Urgent Appeal’: Communication in W. E. B. Du Bois’ Work as Crisis Editor”
- Marisa Hirschfield, The Fieldston School (New York, NY), for “A United Construction: Whiteness in The Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer”
- Victoria Li, Hunter College High School (New York, NY), for “‘This is a White Man’s Country’: Challenging and Communicating White Supremacy in 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina”
- Mingyan Liu, Manhasset Secondary School (Manhasset, NY), for “Driving through the Finish Line: The Fight for Suffrage on Wheels”
- Harry Murphy, St. Andrew’s School (Middletown, DE), for “The Consciousness of the Corporation: Assessing the Origins of an ‘Ethical Consciousness’ Among American Corporations in the 20th Century”
- Gregory Perryman, Beachwood High School (Beachwood, OH) for “DuBois’s Talented Tenth and Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement Converge in Liberia”
- Aysu Türkay, Sewickley Academy (Sewickley, PA), for “US Occupation in the Philippines: The Disconnect between Colonizer and Colonized, and a Different Type of Resistance”
- Emerson Utgaard, Patrick Henry High School (San Diego, CA), for “‘Founding Contradictions’: Reflecting on American Values through Plyler v. Doe”